SDG Bergen

The window for action on climate change is closing

A global alliance of leading climate research universities is urging the G20 countries to embrace a build back better strategy for the post-pandemic recovery. This includes prioritising net zero emissions and planning for a more circular economy.

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Ahead of the G20 Summit on 21 and 22 November 2020, the International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA) urges the world’s richest countries to prioritize net zero emissions. IUCA’s member universities span all populated continents, representing one-third of the 100 highest performing climate research universities and a quarter of the top 100 environmental research universities worldwide.

Experts speak out on climate change

The alliance’s declaration implores world leaders to use the post-COVID recovery to implement measures to counteract climate change, warning that failure to do so will lock in catastrophic consequences for generations to come. Regional media events will be held with a panel of speakers from Asia Pacific and UK university members.

Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Sydney in Australia, a founding member of the Alliance, said he and his colleagues recognised the need for experts with diverse voices to speak out about the climate crisis.

“Many challenges lie ahead of us in combatting the existential crisis in which the world finds itself. The International Universities Climate Alliance is a rich resource upon which governments, business, industry and the wider community can rely for evidence-based expert advice,” said Jacobs.

Circular economy to combat climate change

Professor Dag Rune Olsen, Rector at the University of Bergen, another founding member of IUCA, chimed in with this message, elaborating on it by pointing out that planning for a circular economy will be a major contribution to achieve a goal of net zero emissions.

“We challenge the world's richest country to rethink in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world community’s one-eyed focus on growth must be replaced by a circular economy and a greener development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Olsen.

He suggested that the world community needs to implement a plan for circular economy as soon as possible.

Building back better after pandemic

Also, the Director of the world-leading Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Professor Tore Furevik, was concerned with how we need to build back better after COVID-19.

“In recent months, the slogan ‘build back better’ has been heard ever more often in public discourse and the calls for a circular economy are growing,” said Furevik, “we must end a culture of disposable consumption in favour of more recycling.”

The University of Bergen leaders are glad to see that the Research Council of Norway has announced several new programmes to promote partnerships for research on circular economy measures. The university encourages researchers to apply for funding with partners across sectors.

“The key word is partnership, and this is a good start to bring science and industry together for a shared effort. A rebalancing of the economy is also in accordance with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Olsen and Furevik.

A central hub for climate science

The Climate Alliance is unprecedented in scale and scope and will support world leaders, policy makers and industry in planning for, and responding to, climate change. The advent of the Climate Alliance comes at a time when momentum is building for countries to decarbonise their economies. In recent months there have been moves by various nations to fortify incremental efforts with policies and actions equal to the urgency of the situation.

The Alliance will provide a central hub for universities to share the latest climate research and enable greater collaboration between leading research teams.